Monthly Archives: January 2011

Hotels Brands and Facebook – Identifying the Opportunities

How to customize your Twitter Page ?

How to increase your online reputation – Useful Twitter Tools for Hotel Business

A Guide to Twitter for Dummies

A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

So you’re interested in Twitter. Welcome. Here is a guide to help you through your first couple of weeks. It will seem odd and pointless at the beginning but I promise you it’s worth it.

Basics

First, register an account. Pick a cool username but keep it short. You will one day be identified by this name in public and in front of your friends, so make sure it is something you actually like. You can always change it later on, but that’s not advisable. You want to build a recognizable handle for yourself.

Go to settings and make changes to set up your profile. Pick a photo to go with your handle. One of your face would be nice, unless you wish to be anonymous, then a cartoon of your face works just fine. Then write a bio. You only have 160 characters so stick to adjectives that describe you. People will read your bio to decide if you would be interesting to follow. Be honest. Don’t repeat your location because that shows already. Here is a good example from @footnem (which is how we refer to Fady online and how we will soon refer to you, by your @username).

Passionate about Tech, Photography, Music, Football, F1 and an Adrenaline junkie extreme sports lover. Living in my own Matrix Universe.

From his bio, you can tell that @footnem will be tweeting (writing updates) about tech, photography, music, football, and formula one. You can also tell he will be quoting the Matrix often and making existential remarks. Do like him and write up a bio that describes you. Then change your background and color scheme into something cool.

And now for the big moment: your first tweet. Most likely, it will look something like this:

Hello twitter! Umm.. what do I do now?

or

This is really stupid. Why am I here?

or

Tweet tweet… (or some other joke variation on how you feel like a bird now)

Congratulations. You have shared your first tweet with the world. Except no one is listening… yet. We will get to that part. First, some notes about tweets.

Tweets

Twitter is a micro-blogging service, which means that you can send little updates in the form of 140 characters at a time. You will learn to be brief with practice. Think of it as writing headlines rather than sentences. Tweets are linked to each other automatically using a system called hashtags. A hashtag is any word preceded by a # sign, such as #France #tech #love, etc. When you hash a word, it becomes an automatic link to all other tweets that include the same hashtag. It is like a keyword or a tag. For example, if you click on #Lebanon here, it links you to all tweets that are tagged with #Lebanon. Of course, the hashtag must be related to your tweet. Here is an example:

Just watched Blue Valentine in Empire Sodeco and I highly recommend it! #movies.

Building Connections

Relationships among tweeps (that’s what we call people on twitter) exist in the form of following. You will see on your profile a list of people you follow and people who follow you. Start off by following some people you find interesting. Here are some good people to start with:

As soon as you start following people, twitter will give you automatic recommendations. Follow those too. Start off with 30-40 people to follow and you will soon find more that interest you. Once you follow people, their tweets will appear in your timeline. They will get a notification that you have followed them and they will most probably then check out your profile. And if they find you interesting, they will follow you back.

Interacting with Other Tweeps

Now it is time to interact with your twitter community. There are two ways to do this: by talking to a tweep and by retweeting what they post. Talking to tweeps is public and anyone can see your tweet (unless you send a direct message, which is private). You do this by simply mentioning the person’s username in a tweet. For example:

@meetsamer hello, how are you today?

Samer (very smart dude you should also follow) will then see your tweet in his “Replies” or “Mentions” timeline. This grabs his attention better than if you just tweeted something without mentioning him, since he can’t possibly read every single tweet in his timeline because he follows hundreds of people. He will then probably click on “reply” and answer you in a tweet. You can also tweet to multiple people in the same update. For example, some tweeps like to say “France” to their twitter friends in the morning like this:

France @yasminehajjar @gabdallah @LeGustav @AwanTeaShop@Beirutiyat @NasriAtallah @monakaraoui @_Archangelus_ @Shanty2

Also, when you mention someone with their @ username, it becomes automatically clickable to their profile. The second interaction is called retweeting, by which you re-post what someone else has posted because you find it interesting and want to spread it. To do this, you can use the automatic retweet button that you will find under every tweet. This will re-post the tweet as-is onto your profile with the original tweep’s photo. Or you can retweet manually by copying and pasting the tweet using the following forumla:

RT: @cedarseed: The latest volume of Malaak is now out in bookstores!

Always give credit to tweeps if you are re-posting something they have said or linked to. Twitter is big on giving credit where credit is due, so don’t go plagiarizing tweets. Always mention where you got them from or else no one will like you.

Sharing Links

The most interesting part of twitter (besides meeting cool new people who will eventually become your friends) is the sharing of news and links, which is unmatchable anywhere else. Twitter is a terrific source of news because you are getting links recommended by actual people. To share a link on twitter, simply copy and past the URL into your tweet.

Most links, however, are too long to fit into your 140-character limit, so you will need a URL shortener such as bit.ly. Most sites that provide a link to tweet their articles will do this automatically.

That should be enough for you to start out on Twitter. It’s very intuitive so you will quickly get the hang of things. You can stop here now or you can continue for more useful tips.

 

Other Useful Tips

Offline Activities

Community offline organize regular tweetups, which are hangouts for people on twitter to meet in person over coffee or drinks or a planned activity. You will read about these when they come up on your timeline, so make sure to join one. The community also (un)organizes a GeekFest which is a cool event that brings us together to learn about techie things through peer presentations.

Protected Tweets

If you’re worried about your tweets being exposed publicly, you can opt for privacy (protected tweets) in your settings. That way people need to request to follow you before they can see your profile and tweets.

What is #FF?

#FF is a hashtag for “Follow Friday” and is a twitter tradition whereby every Friday, tweeps recommend others that are interesting for their followers to check out. It’s a good way to get introduced to other tweeps and to also share your appreciation for the people you follow. Here is an example:

#FF @migheille for geeky updates and quirky reflections on life with the slowest internet connection on earth

What is +1?

Sometimes tweeps retweet something with a +1 (or + whatever digit) before it to show their approval of what is being said. For example:

+100 RT: @alainclasse: Smoking should be banned in all public places in #Switzerland!

Direct Messages (DM)

You cannot send a direct message to a tweep who does not follow you. But you can mention anyone in your tweets, whether they follow you or not.

Twitter Clients

Twitter clients are software applications that are an alternative to the twitter website. Two popular examples are TweetDeck and HootSuite. I personally use Echofon, which is a FireFox extension that I find lightweight and easy to use. But you might want to stick to Twitter in your browser for now and then experiment with clients when you have gotten the hang of it.

News Sources, Businesses and Organizations

There are many Lebanese and Arab news sources on twitter that tweet links to their websites, such as: @naharnet @al_akhbar and @nowlebanon. You can follow those too or you can choose tweeps that are very active news sharers such as @BeirutSpring. There are some businesses too but those aren’t very active, except for @AntoineOnline. There are also some active organizations like @nasawiya and @SMEXbeirut.

Twitter Lists

Lists compile similar tweeps together so that you can see a timeline of all their tweets on the same page. You can add multiple tweeps to a list and you will be added to lists too. Here is one of my lists: Lebanon, which includes 50 tweeps who are in Lebanon. You can use it to find more people to follow.

How many Swiss are on twitter?

I’m not sure. There are many who live here and many who are abroad. I would estimate at least 500 active tweeps and maybe a couple of thousand if you include the ones who are rarely active. But the community’s growing every day.

Is everyone friendly on twitter?

No, just like in your offline life. Most people are very polite and friendly, but you will bump into a few bullies. Unfollow people who annoy you and if it gets to a point of harassment, you can block them from accessing your profile.

Live Updates & Citizen Journalism

Twitter is a great way to get quick bits of news across from an event. This works well if you have a twitter app installed on your smartphone and if it allows you to upload photos and videos.

There you go. Happy tweeting!

Tips and Tricks On Using Twitter For Business

How Travelers use Social Media ?

Using the social web before, during and after travel

Many travelers turn to social sites when planning a trip, to find destinations, deals and advice and reviews from other travelers on where to stay and what to do. And social media venues are critical to sharing photos and stories about trips after the fact. But as the sites become more important to travelers’ lives in general they are increasingly taking social media with them while they’re away as well.

A survey conducted by StudyLogic for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts examined attitudes toward social media for business and travel use and found that 72.7% of US social network users accessed the sites at least daily while they were traveling. Young adults ages 25 to 34 checked social sites most often, with nearly a third using them multiple times an hour.

And in a reversal of conventional wisdom, men were more frequent checkers of social networks than women, who were twice as likely to check the sites just once a day. Men were also more likely to report that they “couldn’t live without” social media if they were unable to access it for several days.

Nearly 60% of respondents said social media made it easier to meet people while traveling, with men and young adults again in the lead.

According to a September 2010 survey of women conducted byVision Critical for Wyndham Worldwide’s Women on Their Way, Facebook is the top social site for travelers, and it’s most often used to share photos and video (57%) and post status updates or commentary about trips (38%), followed distantly by checking in (13%).

The survey of female travelers found that just under half used social media during their trip, compared with 55% using the sites before a trip and 82% after.

Women under 35 were more likely to do so, at 53% vs. 36%, and the top method for accessing social media while on a trip was via laptop. More than three-quarters of US females connected to social sites on a laptop while traveling, compared with 47% who used a smartphone. Just 12% used a netbook and 8% a tablet PC.

Social Media – 7 tools to monitor your competitors’ traffic


“Heavy Traffic” by Masakazu “Matto” Matsumoto on Flickr

Just how accurate are Alexa, Compete, Quantcast & the others?

Today we’re going to examine a number of tools and resources for getting insights into competitors’ traffic data. We’ll assess their strengths and weaknesses as well as the validity and usefulness of the data provided.

We’ve had clients asking us for a better view of overall market size and what kind of traffic their competitors are getting, since it can be tricky to find meaningful predictive data even when you know who your competitors are or should be.

It is worth pointing out that a number of these services suggest they can provide better data if you claim the sites by entering your ownership credentials. I can’t testify to the accuracy of this, and our analysis is based upon the free version of the tools as we did not have paid access to any of the tools.

We tested 25 sites for which we had reliable internal data, giving us insight into just how accurate these tools really are — or aren’t.

alexa

alexa-logo

Alexa: Too often, dubious numbers

1Strengths: Alexa is good for comparing different sites traffic and for monitoring general traffic trends. It can be quite useful for comparing one site to a competitor site (up to five sites at a time). The index is massive and contains some data about all of the 25 sites we tested.

Weaknesses: Not so great for the smaller sites. As you can see below, you won’t get any of the traffic charts for sites ranked outside of the top 100,000, which means if Alexa thinks you are getting fewer than 10,000 visits per month you’re unlikely to glean any great information. Accuracy is a serious concern. This does call into question the usefulness of the tool in general. The numbers reported are not helpful for predicting traffic on their own.

Accuracy: We want to keep this all anonymous but let’s just say one site that we know gets 10-20,000 visits per month had an Alexa rank that was more than five times better than a site that we know gets 75,000+ visitors per month. And this was not just a one-off event. So I have to seriously question the reliability of this tool. It didn’t seem to be too bad at predicting the trends for a single site but the charts are extremely difficult to make any real use of. Interestingly it seems to be skewed in favor of sites within the search marketing space. Sites in the search marketing space that we looked at regularly outranked sites receiving more than 10 times as much traffic on a monthly basis.

How to best use Alexa: The tool is interesting for comparing similar sites or sites within an industry, but be very cautious about using this to make any meaningful suggestions or estimates on traffic data. The most accurate data seemed to be the data from the visitors by country — the percentages we looked at were not too far off.

Cost: Free. Options for site audits for $199.

Compete: Good UI, questionable data

2Strengths: Compete has a useful interface, speaks the right language (unique visitors, visits, etc.), offers the ability to compare multiple sites, and its data is easy to understand and well presented.

Weaknesses: Accuracy, somewhat limited number of sites – many sites that it classifies as “low sample sites,” and the cost of the Pro option.

Accuracy: Again, accuracy is a serious concern here. The data was off in some cases by as much as 2,000% for monthly visits. The accuracy seemed to be a bit better for the peaks in traffic and some of the general trends we looked at but was certainly not reliable enough for us to suggest reporting competitor traffic based upon this information.

How to best use Compete: It should come as no surprise that Compete is best used for comparing competitors. The scale of the data is way off but some of the trends seemed to be fairly reliable. I wouldn’t advise reporting any numbers from this data as they do not seem close/reliable at all – often off by a factor of 200% or more — however the trends are reliable. The information could be meaningfully used to look into seasonal trends between competitors.

Cost: Free. The Pro membership is $499 per month.

Google ad planner

Google Ad Planner: Some unique twists

3Strengths: Google Ad Planner has a few things going for it: Its “sites also visited” data is good, the keywords searched for can be quite valuable, and the “audience interests” data is interesting.

Weaknesses:: Accuracy, lack of data for small sites.

Accuracy: The accuracy was really mixed. For many of the sites AdPlanner provided much better data than some of the others. However, they were still off by miles for some sites – off by as much as 1000%. Given the occasional “big miss,” I would not be comfortable using this data to make traffic predictions for a client.

How to best use Google Ad Planner: The data about other sites visited as well as keywords searched for (with affinity) could be extremely valuable as well as some of the other metrics reported on and audience interests. However, the traffic data is not particularly meaningful and can’t be relied upon.

Cost: Free.

Google Insights: Numbers normalized for search

4Strengths: Google Insights offers generalized trends around key phrases and key phrase groups and regional information. Trusted source.

Weaknesses: It was difficult to read the data. There were no hard numbers about traffic. It was hard to compare entire sites to one another.

Accuracy: You can bet that the accuracy of this data is going to be pretty good given that the data provider has access to more data than anyone else on the Internet. However, the fact that the numbers are normalized and more designed for key phrases and search terms and trends than for traffic data means that the search volume will correspond perfectly with the traffic to a site.

How to best use Google Insights: The tool could be quite helpful for finding the most valuable pockets of key phrases and key phrase groups. This could be particularly valuable when looking at a competitor site and trying to figure out which of their key phrases are driving the most traffic. It could help you see which of the key phrases within a key phrase group might be the most valuable.

Cost: Free.

Google Trends: For broad information gathering

5Strengths: Google Trends for Websites is good for illustrating magnitudes of difference between sites. It allows comparison of multiple websites, and it includes regional information.

Weaknesses: It’s not good for comparing sites fairly similar in size. It does not provide information for smaller sites when logged in, it’s accuracy is uneven and it provides no numbers.

Accuracy: The data seem to be more accurate when only trying to compare traffic from search; it does not seem to do as well in assessing overall traffic. When comparing websites with drastically different traffic numbers, the rough visual estimation appears to correspond quite well with the observed analytics data as well. When visiting the site and logged in, Trends it does provide numbers and ranges, though the data looks to be off on a few of the sites I have checked. It is not as far off as the data for the same sites using AdPlanner, but still considerably far off — e.g., reporting 140,000 visits for a site that receives about 320,000 unique visits daily.

How to best use Google Trends for Websites: Trends is great for broad information gathering. It gives some insight into similar searches when comparing sites, and in general it is unlikely that you will find better comparative data out there without direct access to your competitor’s analytics account. However, Trends does not provide numbers and thus can only be used to venture a guess at what sorts of numbers competitors are pulling in.

Cost: Free.

Quantcast: Nifty Media Planner Tool

6Strengths: Quantcast provides traffic numbers that are easy to follow, displays information nicely, offers some demographic information and has an interesting Media Planner Tool.

Weaknesses: Unreliable and often inaccurate, lacks data for small and medium trafficked sites. Inability to compare sites.

Accuracy: The biggest shortcoming of the Quantcast data is accuracy. As with some of the other services, the traffic data is estimated and is nowhere near accurate on the sites for which Quantcast had any data. Data was off by as much as 10 times the actual analytics data for some of the sites.

How to best use Quantcast: Although the data is not particularly reliable for the traffic data, some of the other tools the site has to offer seem quite interesting and worth further investigation. The demographics information provides a reference as to how the data compare against Internet averages.

Cost: Free.

SEMrush: Most accurate of the bunch

7Strengths: SEMrush‘s data includes sites of all sizes, a list of key phrases and rankings for those terms — and provided the most accurate data of all the tools we examined.

Weaknesses: The data were still imperfect. Customers must pay to get full data lists. And the data is only for Google traffic.

Accuracy: The data were not perfectly accurate, though generally speaking SEMrush did not miss the mark for any of the sites we tested the way a number of the other tools did. In the end, the data were surprisingly accurate. As with some of the Google data, the information reported is just the Google search engine traffic, but this is our main area of focus and was quite accurate when drilling down into that specific area of traffic within analytics.

How to best use SEMrush: Although imperfect, this tool came the closest to providing accurate data that I would, at least with a word of warning, be willing to share with a client about potential expectations or about where their competitors’ traffic may be. Most importantly, the add-on options and ability to see the keyword lists and how the competitor ranks for these terms is extraordinarily appealing.

Cost: Free to $499 per month. We used the free version.

A look at two final sites that estimate Web traffic
comScore

Unfortunately, we struggled with comScore. We were unable to get a log-in or sneak a peek at any of the data.

How to best use comScore: comScore offers a number of reports and insights into markets, including reports on local market size as well as information about valuable/important keywords in an industry. It would be very interesting to find out where this data was coming from and how good it was, but we were not able to achieve this in time to publish this information.

Cost: Not disclosed.

HitWise

Unfortunately, we were not able to get data from HitWise in time for publication.

How to best use HitWise: HitWise, similarly to comScore, works on a reporting basis insofar as you speak to them about the types of market reports you would like, or you can create custom reports. While we cannot comment on the accuracy of the data, the services offered look to be better tailored to an SEO‘s needs than do the reports offered by comScore. However, generally speaking HitWise will not work with agencies, which will be a bit of a bummer for some of you.

Cost: Free to $695+ per report

Conclusion

I hope that the findings from all this research will be valuable to you. Ultimately, it’s an incomplete study. For the time being I would rely most heavily on SEMrush for predicting traffic and estimating how well a competitor is doing, but all of these tools add something to the ever-growing traffic toolbelt even if it may be for a purpose other than that which I was hoping they would achieve.

Posted from Sam Crockers

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